The Wisdom of Finance - Mihir Desai

The Wisdom of Finance

By Mihir Desai

  • Release Date: 2017-05-23
  • Genre: Finance
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"A fascinating new perspective on modern finance," --Oliver Hart, 2016 Nobel Laureate in Economics

"Lucid, witty and delightfully erudite...From the French revolution to film noir, from the history of probability to Jane Austen and The Simpsons, this is an astonishing intellectual feast." --Sebastian Mallaby, author of The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan

Longlisted for 2017 Financial Times/McKinsey Business Book of the Year 



In 1688, essayist Josef de la Vega described finance as both “the fairest and most deceitful business . . . the noblest and the most infamous in the world, the finest and most vulgar on earth.”

The characterization of finance as deceitful, infamous, and vulgar still rings true today – particularly in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. But, what happened to the fairest, noblest, and finest profession that de la Vega saw? 

De la Vega hit on an essential truth that has been forgotten: finance can be just as principled, life-affirming, and worthy as it can be fraught with questionable practices.  Today, finance is shrouded in mystery for outsiders, while many insiders are uneasy with the disrepute of their profession.  How can finance become more accessible and also recover its nobility?

Harvard Business School professor Mihir Desai, in his “last lecture” to the graduating Harvard MBA class of 2015, took up the cause of restoring humanity to finance. With incisive wit and irony, his lecture drew upon a rich knowledge of literature, film, history, and philosophy to explain the inner workings of finance in a manner that has never been seen before.

This book captures Desai’s lucid exploration of the ideas of finance as seen through the unusual prism of the humanities. Through this novel, creative approach, Desai shows that outsiders can access the underlying ideas easily and insiders can reacquaint themselves with the core humanity of their profession.

The mix of finance and the humanities creates unusual pairings: Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope are guides to risk management; Jeff Koons becomes an advocate of leverage; and Mel Brooks’s The Producers teaches us about fiduciary responsibility. In Desai’s vision, the principles of finance also provide answers to critical questions in our lives. Among many surprising parallels, bankruptcy teaches us how to react to failure, the lessons of mergers apply to marriages, and the Capital Asset Pricing Model demonstrates the true value of relationships.
THE WISDOM OF FINANCE is a wholly unique book, offering a refreshing new perspective on one of the world’s most complex and misunderstood professions.    


  • Extremely worthwhile

    By CRSlack
    This is a wonderful book. It's an accessible introduction to the philosophy of uncertainty. In spite of its erudition, it has no pretensions of scholarship. Its didactic purpose is clear throughout. Desai has made admirable use of literature and history to illustrate how we make meaningful and ethical decisions that affect our material well-being. His arguments for taking finance seriously as a fundamental human endeavor are provocative. His prose moves us along easily through his ideas. A meta-story for this book is contained in the afterward and notes. One boggles at the time and energy it might take to become a noted professor in a specialty discipline and still read everything that it would take to produce such an encompassing work. But Desai is quick to share credit with friends, colleagues, mentors, students, family and others. The book becomes a testament to the rewards and benefits of creating and sustaining networks. Surely this too is one of the key stories of finance.